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The creation of natural 3D environments requires highly complex shaders that respond to altitude or slope, seamlessly cover any terrain, and exhibit enough detail whether seen from distance or from close-up.

VUE features a shader system that is fully optimized for the challenges of Digital Nature. By using three types of material editors, you can effectively create anything from simple bitmapped textures to elaborate multi-layered procedural terrain materials that dynamically respond to the environment.

The Basic Material Editor

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The basic editor is designed to let you quickly create bitmapped textures and easily customize existing procedural materials.

Its no-hassle interface offers slots for color, bump and alpha maps, as well as highlight and reflection sliders. You can also choose one of the eight mapping modes.

The Advanced Material Editor

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This full-featured editor gives you control over every aspect of the material, from transparency fade-out color to displacement mapping, from variable reflections to translucency.

Mixed and Layered Materials

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VUE's material editor offers extended control over the creation of complex materials through a material mixing and layering system:

  • Add, delete, and rename layers on the fly
  • Move layers up and down in the stack
  • Each layer has its own alpha channel
  • Each layer has its own independent reaction to altitude, slope and orientation
  • Create mixed materials with any number of sub-materials
  • Easily navigate even the most complex layered/mixed/nested materials
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Bump, Displacement and Normal Mapping

VUE offers bump, displacement and normal mapping channels for producing intricate surface details or large amplitude deformations (when using displacement).

The micro-polygon displacement engine is fully tailored for natural scenery creation allowing the render of millions of polygons with full level of detail optimization based on camera location and distance.

Displacement can be adjusted in any direction (vertical, horizontal, normal) and contains a smoothing slider to smooth out high frequency details if desired. Large amplitude displacement allows for extreme displacement effects without artifacts or torn meshes

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Sub-Surface Scattering

VUE materials correctly implement the two aspects of sub-surface scattering: basic absorption (for highly translucent materials such as wax) and highly accurate multiple internal scattering (for slightly translucent materials such as marble).

The combination of these two aspects perfectly reproduces all the subtleties and unique “soft” look of all types of semi-absorbent materials.

Natural Grain

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VUE xStream 2016 introduces a new color production mode called Natural Grain.

This new mode produces natural color variations particularly well suited for terrains, ground, or any natural elements of your scene.

Great results, no brain squash: Ideal for quick results, the Natural Grain option provides high level access to settings such as contrast, balance and roughness, directly from the Material Editor without having to delve into the intricacies of the Function Editor (of course, you can always customize the look further using the Function Editor).


VUE can use any image sequence, AVI or Quicktime animations as a texture map. These animated texture maps can be used in any texture channel, as light gels or as SmartGraph function nodes.

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The SmartGraph Function Editor

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Almost all the parameters in the material editor can be controlled by a function (or set of functions). The function editor is where the true power of material editing lies.

E-on developed the SmartGraph technology (inspired by artificial intelligence systems), to help overcome the sheer number of possibilities presented by the function editor. Thanks to this technology, connecting nodes and creating custom shaders is much easier and more intuitive.

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There are hundreds of available nodes to choose from, ranging from numerous types of noises and procedural functions to mathematical nodes, mixers, combiners and filters.

Almost any node can be connected to any other, allowing the creation of highly elaborate materials or special shaders such X-ray, velvet, or cartoon. Reaction to the environment is further enhanced with nodes such as distance to object below or angle of incidence.

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Time Dependent Node

Time Dependent Nodes

Using time-dependent noise functions, you can animate not only materials but also procedural terrains. For instance, VUE comes with a dedicated Open Ocean procedural function, which makes it easy to create rolling ocean waves with adjustable wind parameters.

Controlling Materials from the "Outside"

With the "Scene Graph" approach, it is possible to control internal material properties based on external parameters, such as the position of an object in the scene. This could be used to create a rim of foam around an object, or to color one object according to the orientation of another object...

With the “Relative to sea” option you can create materials that appear at certain altitudes, either relative to the sea, or absolute in world coordinates.

The input node, “Sea level”, is also directly accessible from the Function Graphs.

The External Dependency nodes of the Function Graph can express object positions and dimensions in user-definable real-world units (meters, feet, etc). This is also the case for other nodes that express real world dimensions, such as Distance to object below, distance from camera, etc.

Also, real world dimensions can be fed into the Position and Size outputs.

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MetaNodes let you group several nodes or links into a single node.

MetaNodes greatly simplify the readability of your graphs by letting you organize your graph into functional modules and then “publishing” the relevant internal parameters so that they are accessible in the Function Graph.

VUE ships with a library of preset MetaNodes to help you build your own graphs. You can complete this library by saving your own MetaNodes for future use.

Custom Interfaces

Top Level Publishing

Vue's powerful parameter publishing feature is extended to allow the creation of top-level interfaces. Create simplified high-level controls and access these controls directly from the material editor, the terrain editor or the object editors!

You can reap the power of the function graphs without even opening the Function Editor!

Top-level parameters can be animated via the timeline, including published material parameters. This provides unprecedented control over the animation of your materials.

Cyclic Noises & Fractals

Cyclic Fractal Pattern

New cyclic noises and fractals provide powerful capabilities to generate patterns that repeat seamlessly, in space or time (for instance, for that perfectly looping water animation effect)!

You can control the cycle rate along each axis to produce truly amazing patterns.

Physical Transparency

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Physically Accurate Glass

Fully transparent materials don't actually exist in nature: Since they are made from particles of matter, light will interact with these particles as it travels through the transparent medium.

VUE offers a physical transparency model that will accurately reproduce this phenomenon by simulating volumetric light scattering and absorption through transparent media.

This is particularly useful for the simulation of realistic glass, for example.

Improved Highlights

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Improved Highlights in GI

The rendering of highlights in combination with global illumination is dramatically improved by better accounting for the interaction of illumination with bumps at the surface of objects.

Shared Material Layers

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You can share material layers throughout your scene. Once shared, the material layer can be easily associated to any other material in the scene.

Any changes to that layer will carry over to all materials that share that layer, so you can, for instance, add a layer of snow to multiple materials, and tweak the snow on all materials simultaneously.

Image Combiner / Sampler Nodes

The Image Combiner Node, used in conjunction with the Image Sampler (and Multi-Image Sampler) nodes allow you to combine several projected texture maps to create various effects (e.g. create a sandstone material by combining a rock texture with a sand texture).

Texture Projection Mapping Improvements

You can select the mapping mode for all Projected Texture Maps independently from the general material mapping mode, allowing the creation of very complex materials. This parameter is also available for the Projected Animation Map node.

For instance, in one single material, you can have a Projected Texture Map for the Color channel set to World Parametric and a second Projected Texture Map used for displacement set to Object Standard.

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Volumetric Materials

VUE offers advanced volumetric materials with 5 different lighting models to choose from (uniform, shaded, additive, volume shaded and HyperTexture).

Volume Shaded and HyperTextures Models

The volume shaded model supports internal volumetric color, accurate self-shadowing, and optional distance field.

The HyperTexture model effectively produces a solid/volumetric hybrid that can be used to create porous materials such as corroded metal or sponge, and various special effects like water splashes.

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Other Material Features in VUE xStream 2016

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  • High-amplitude displacement mapping
  • Double-sided materials let you define two different materials: one per side of each face
  • Modulate the Sub-Surface Scattering depth using a function graph
  • Set the minimal reflectivity of a material at any given viewing angle
  • Grouped Materials allow you to store many materials (layers) in one single material file, and preserve Alpha and Environment properties
  • Render thin, one-sided surfaces (e.g. window glass), with reflectivity depending on the viewing angle BUT without refraction
  • Export materials using Walt Disney Animation's Ptex standard
  • Easier access and edition of multi-material thanks to sub-menu hierarchy display.
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